As I was getting ready to say goodbye to 2014, I read a post from Owen Wilson titled “Twitter isn’t about news, tweets or even you anymore“. The thesis of that article was: Twitter doesn’t care about users anymore, only about ads and money.
Even though I agree with parts of that statement, I think he failed to mention some important points. Twitter is very interested in its users, in fact it’s dying to find the formula that keeps them engaged. The problem is that the company seems to be focused on making Wall Street happy first.
Wilson mentioned that “the company hasn’t delivered any meaningful product improvements” over the last two years. This is simply not true: its new tweet indexing has been one of the biggest changes; it powers the search engine and allows anyone to find any tweet ever written, but more importantly, it enables a myriad of great user scenarios. For example, Twitter could learn about the trending topics that you have participated in during the last month, and then use that information to offer you much better content in the Discovery section.
Twitter doesn’t want you to get bored. In fact, they are testing a feature where they surface relevant tweets that you missed while you were gone. Their ultimate goal is to ensure that you always see relevant tweets.
There have been other improvements that I find interesting, like the ability to send a tweet in a Direct Message (great way of starting a private conversation) or the dedicated channels to talk about events like the World Cup or the movies.
However, Wilson was right when saying that Twitter missed some opportunities: they went too far by tampering with popular features like the Retweet or by injecting promoted accounts in some users’ Following lists. This last issue and the following strategy statement from CFO Anthony Noto are some examples of what Wilson called “Twitter shoving in ads“:
Reach the largest daily audience in the world by connecting everyone to their world via our information sharing and distribution platform products and be one of the top revenue generating Internet companies in the world.
Even though Wall Street loved it (shares went up 7.5%), Wilson was not the only one left thinking about where the users fit in that picture. Dick Costolo himself had to tweet that the company hadn’t changed its mission statement in order to reinforce Twitter’s commitment with its users:
Friends, Romans, countrymen: We haven't changed our mission. It's here: about.twitter.com/company—
dick costolo (@dickc) November 13, 2014
Twitter is already more than a social network or platform, it’s a place where anyone can have a voice, tweet to companies’ customer service to resolve issues, interact with their favorite writer/actor/singer, get involved in events happening around them, etc.
Unfortunately, the tech world is often moved by gut feelings, so if most users start thinking that Twitter only cares about money, then the company will have to deal with a very different problem.
I believe Twitter does know what to do next, it’s just executing slower than some might prefer; so yes, Twitter is still about news, tweets and you, specially you.
BONUS: Alvaro already talked last February about the effect of Wall Street on innovative companies like Facebook or Twitter.
Image via Getty